DEATH – “Before I was human, I was a fish”: mystical and eccentric, Lee “Scratch” Perry, who died this Sunday August 29 in Jamaica, is the producer who allowed reggae to conquer the world by guiding Bob Marley .
“Lee‘ Scratch ’Perry died this morning while in Noel Holmes Hospital. He was 85 years old, ”Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced on his twitter account.
Born in 1936 in Kendal, Jamaica, Rainford Hugh “Lee” Perry left school at age 15 before moving to Kingston in the 1960s.
My deep condolences to the family, friends, and fans of legendary record producer and singer, Rainford Hugh Perry OD, affectionately known as “Lee Scratch” Perry. pic.twitter.com/Eec2MEd6yC
“My father worked in the streets, my mother in the fields. We were very poor, ”he told British rock magazine New Musicalm Express (NME) in 1984. “I didn’t learn anything in school. I learned everything on the street ”.
“Sorcier du reggae”, “Salvador Dali du dub” (extension of reggae based on echoes), “The Upsetter” (“The bother”): nicknames abound for this elusive and striking figure in the history of the music.
He is therefore the one who pushed Marley in the studio to come out of his gangue to rise to the top. “Without him, Bob Marley might have remained an orphan arrow from his bow,” wrote Francis Dordor, a specialist in the snowman, in Les Inrockuptibles. Perry “reintroduced Africa into Jamaican music. Not only the rhythmic plurality but also the cultural and philosophical resonance ”.
But the Jamaican shaman should not be reduced to this fact of glory. This frail silhouette blowing ganja on his microphone to chase away evil spirits before his performance-experiences on stage, instilled a number of musical motives.
“It was the sound of Perry and that of Jamaican ‘toasters’ (DJ taking the microphone) that inspired us in the early days of hip-hop,” admitted Afrika Bambaataa, US rap pioneer, in Rolling Stone.
And some of the hypnotic loops of Perry’s mixing consoles – elevated to full-fledged instruments – are heard in techno.
The man will not harbor any resentment at hearing his signatures here and there. “If I hit my enemies, they live on. Because I strike them with love, “he said in a cryptic phrase he knew nothing about, launched in Le Temps, a Swiss newspaper, the country where he ended up settling in the late 1990s.
Other artists have collaborated in broad daylight with the legend, from The Clash to the Beastie Boys through Moby, electro brain providing the backing vocals – alongside ex-porn star, Sasha Gray – for one of his works .
You should have seen the phenomenon talking to a cow in the vicinity of Einsiedeln – its Swiss base, a major pilgrimage site for its Black Madonna – in the documentary “Lee Scratch Perry’s vision of paradise” by Volker Schaner.
Why the Swiss Alps? To follow his last wife, a Swiss, former dominatrix and former “brothel owner”, “expert in the whip who was called Madame Devil” (“Madame Demoniaque”) as Le Temps exposes.
Volker Schaner’s film is rich in amazing scenes. The sound sculptor can be heard saying that he was a fish before he was human, or repeating that he “defeats the vampires.”
We admire his different headdresses, Indian feathers in the Far West style, seaweed fresh out of the waves or caps overloaded with charms or mirrors.
His shoes feature on one side a portrait of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie – considered by Rastafarians to be a messiah – and in one sole conceal a carefully protected sketch of the Queen of England.
A whole universe, born from his labyrinthine spirit, often compared to that of Postman Cheval. A decorum-jumble that ended up in his legendary studio in Kingston, the “Black Ark”.
What drove him behind desks to shape sounds? The legend lends him a thousand lives – bulldozer driver, professional dancer, domino player … – before he becomes a little hand in recording studios in the Jamaican capital and then founds his label “Upsetter”.
A studio that burned down in the early 1980s without the origin of the fire ever being established. And in the 2010s, it was his new den-workshop, in Switzerland, that suffered the same fate.
Perry will then say on his social media that he forgot to put out a candle. He who sparked so many sparks in the music.
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